After yet another paws for international matches, the Lions & the Swatcats convened at the PAT for a T1 catfight. With both teams still facing, albeit distantly, the spectre of relegation, I had the feline it would be a tight game – would Korat go fur it, or park the puss? During a pre-match Twitter chat with Cap’n Rochela, he predicted that the wet, muddy conditions wouldn’t make for good football, so mewl be surprised to learn that, despite the far from purr-fect pitch, it was actually a very entertaining and eventful game. Here’s my re-paw-t.
Port started the game with the classic Jadet 4-5-1 lineup, with the only changes coming in defence where Rattanai (17) returned in place of Worawut, and Todsapol (6) came in for the suspended Dolah, two changes I’d like to see made permanent as both players give Port’s defence a much more solid look.
There was also a familiar face in the Korat lineup, with our old friend, the Comedy Keeper himself, Weera Duckworth returning to the PAT to delight the crowd with his slapstick antics.
The game began in lively fashion, with both teams doing their best to play good football despite the pitch resembling a litter tray. But it was Port who looked the most likely to score, with Suarez (5) shooting narrowly wide on 15 minutes, closely followed by Pakorn (9) curling a free-kick into the arms of Weera Duckworth a couple of minutes later, and Josimar (30) hitting a disappointingly tame shot into the former Rovers Return landlady’s grateful arms after being released by a lovely Siwakorn through-ball. Korat too had their chances, with Rattanai making a smart one-handed save from a rasping drive by Chanatphon (22).
The deadlock was finally broken in the 38th minute. A Panpanpong (19) cross from the left found Josi, but for reasons best known to himself the big Brazilian headed the ball down rather than into the net, allowing Duckworth to make a save. However, in the resulting melee, Suarez was deemed to have been barged over by a defender and, to much hissing and spitting from the Swatcats – which, having just seen it on video, was entirely justified – the ref pointed to the spot, and, as per usual, Rochela (22) buried it in the old bolso de cebolla for 1-0.
Korat were further aggrieved 4 minutes later when Suarez again, and Ekkachai (20) clashed in the box, with the latter going down rather spectacularly. Too spectacularly for the ref’s liking – he gave the Korat player a yellow for simulation which, given that he’d been booked earlier in the game, meant an early bath. It was a little harsh as it was no more or less a penalty than the one given to Port minutes earlier, but given the number of harsh penalties given against us this season we weren’t complaining.
There was another somewhat unsavoury incident just before the break. Rattanai dived for the ball at the feet of Brazilian striker and serial irritant Paulo Rangel (9) and as the latter jumped over him, he deliberately stamped on the young keeper’s leg. The referee and his assistant may not have seen it but all of us in Zone B did, and proceeded to inform Rangel of our displeasure at his ungentlemanly conduct.
The rain began to fall again at half-time making the pitch even more slippery, but it didn’t stop Port who were 2-0 up within a couple of minutes at the restart. I’d just succeeded in smuggling a can of Leo past the less than attentive Zone B stewards when I noticed Suarez bursting into the Korat box. His chipped cross to the far post was fumbled by Weera Duckworth right onto the feet of Josi, who hammered it home from 2 yards to double Port’s lead. And two minutes later it was nearly 3, when an absolute thunderbastard from Pakorn was tipped over the bar by the much-loved former Coronation Street star (RIP). Josi was next to come close on 55 minutes when his near-perfect header from a Panpanpong cross beat Duckworth but came back off the post.
On the hour mark, Jim & myself were busy discussing Rangel’s shortcomings as a human being when who should get on the end of a Korat free-kick to nod it past Rattanai, but Rangel himself. It was the kind of confused defending (Rangel being marked not by a central defender but by Josi & Panpanpong) that has let Port down on so many occasions this season, and with the Swatcats’ tails now up, it looked like Operation Fuckup was once again underway.
Rangel came close in the 70th minute, with his shot being turned wide by the excellent Rattanai, but 4 minutes later it was pretty much game over, when a superb inswinging corner from Pakorn was bundled in off Suarez’s shoulder, the Spaniard showing the kind of desire to get on the end of corners that has been absent from his – and the team’s – game most of the season.
There was time for some late drama, with Korat being reduced to 9 men in injury time after a shocking tackle from behind left Nitipong (34) in a crumpled heap, before the referee finally blew the whistle.
One of Port’s better performances this, with the team looking energetic and committed after the recent limp cup exits. More importantly, the 3 points guarantee Port’s T1 status next season and the team can now enjoy the rest of 2017 without pressure, starting with next Sunday when we have a chance to effectively end Muangthong’s title hopes. Come on boys, you know what to do.
Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez
What’s this? Tim giving Suarez MOTM? Well, it’s true. There were several good performances from Port, notably Rochela, Rattanai and Adisorn, but the Spaniard gets the nod this week. Clearly revelling in the muddy conditions, he was at the heart of everything Port did, winning the penalty for the first goal, setting up Josi for the second, and scoring the third. It was a skilful, hard-working performance which earned him a warm ovation when he was substituted. And as ever, it begs the question – when he can play like this, why the hell doesn’t he do it more often?